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Sunday, October 13, 2013

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

I've been wanting to make these for awhile.  My favorite pumpkin incorporating baked good has always been a very soft chocolate chip pumpkin cookie.  So when I saw the recipe for this, I immediately thought they would be similar and wanted to try it out as soon as possible.  It didn't hurt that this recipe was called "skinny."  It only has 2 Tbsp of coconut oil and 3/4 of a cup of raw sugar.  Also it is almost 50% whole wheat flour.  I do not have pumpkin pie spice in the house, so I made some from this recipe.  They did come out delicious, but at first, I was knocked over by the strength of the cloves and allspice - they are some powerful spices.  I am not a huge fan of those to begin with and chose a pumpkin pie spice recipe that had the smallest ratio of these spices to the other ingredients, but I still may tone them down the next time I make this.  Regardless, you can use whatever blend of pumpkin pie spice you have or experiment in making your own.  Despite the strong flavor of these muffins, a three year old and a four year old loved them.  So fear not and enjoy these little guys.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins
from Skinnytaste
made 36 mini muffins

1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
3/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
3/4 cup raw sugar
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 3/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups canned pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
2 tbsp virgin coconut oil (or canola oil)
2 large egg whites
2 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup mini chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a mini muffin tin with paper liners.  In a medium bowl, combine flours, sugar, baking soda, pumpkin spice, cinnamon, and salt with a wire whisk. Set aside.  In a large bowl mix pumpkin puree, oil, egg whites and vanilla.  Beat at medium speed until thick. Scrape down sides of the bowl.  Add flour mixture to the wet mixture, then blend at low speed until combined; do not over mix. Fold in chocolate chips.  Put a tablespoon of batter into each muffin cup and bake on the center rack for 22 to 24 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Let them cool at least 15 minutes before serving.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Dill Potato Soup

If you don't like dill, then read no further.  But if you love dill like I do, then make this soup now.  It is a perfect vehicle for subtly and lovely dill flavor.  And it has the creamy texture of a delicious baked potato soup without all the fat.  All it needs is a little bit of olive oil and flour to make it thicken up.  So yesterday, an amazingly generous and thoughtful colleague of mine brought me in a bag of garden veggies.  There was broccoli, beets, arugula, and, you guessed it...dill!  So I obviously have very big plans for everything.  As I'm sure you will see as the week progresses.  But I decided to kick off this "inspired by a bag of mixed garden fresh veggies" week, by making a potato soup like my Bubby used to make - which means a potato soup with dill.  I was just throwing it together, so I hope I can recreate this soup exactly as it happened to turn out - because upon tasting it, I was transported back to my loving Bubby's kitchen.  It was wonderful.  She would have been very, very proud of my work.  It must be in the genes.

Dill Potato Soup
makes 4 servings

1 medium carrot, diced small
1 medium celery stalk, finely diced
1 shallot, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 large russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch dice
6 cups of low sodium chicken broth
1 Tbsp olive oil + more for sauteing the veggies
3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1 bunch of dill
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

In a large pot, heat some olive oil over medium heat.  Add the carrots, celery, shallot, and garlic and cook stirring occasionally until the onion is translucent.  Then add the potatoes.  Stir for about 20 seconds and add the chicken broth.  Bring the soup up to a boil.  Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, combine the tablespoon of olive oil with the flour.  Add some of the hot chicken broth from your pot and whisk until you form a paste.  continue to add more broth gradually while whisking to thoroughly combine.  After you have added about a cup of the broth, return this thickening mixture to the pot of soup.  Incorporate the mixture well.  Add the dill to the pot, either tied in a cheesecloth or with kitchen twine.  You can reserve a tablespoon of finely chopped dill to add at the end if you'd like.  You will remove the bunch when the soup is done cooking, after it's finished infusing all of it's dilly goodness into the soup.  Once the soup has come to a boil, lower the heat and allow it to simmer for another 20 minutes.  Remove the bunch of dill, season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve immediately (although not so immediately that you burn your tongue like I did.)


Sunday, October 6, 2013

Oatmeal Pancakes with Roasted Cinnamon Apples

I wish I was one of those people who looked forward to eating salad for lunch or oatmeal for breakfast - but I'm just not.  I would take a sandwich or a pizza over a salad any day.  I really need to force myself to make healthier choices most of the time.  Unless the salad has fried goat cheese nuggets all over it, then I'm most likely not going to jump at the salad.  I feel the same way about breakfast.  I am always inclined to have bacon and eggs over fruit and oatmeal.  I just can't help myself and occasionally that's okay.  Not all the time though.  So maybe if I turn oatmeal into pancakes...and then top it with roasted cinnamon apples...yes...oh yes indeed.  I was very nervous about how this was going to go.  Especially once I began to put the batter into the pan.  The batter was very loose, but it ended up coming together and the result was a delicious pancake that tasted like a warm bowl of oatmeal.  The addition of the apples made for an absolutely amazing combination.  It rendered maple syrup completely unnecessary, although just the littlest bit added another layer of flavor that made it even better - but it certainly did not need any.  I wanted more.  I wasn't sure how it would go down, but now I wish I had doubled the recipe.  Definitely next time...

Sadly due to the rainy whether today, I was unable to take a nice picture with great ease, so you missed out on all the beautiful prep shots that could have been.  At least I got the finished product.

Oatmeal Pancakes
from Cooking Light
made about 8 pancakes

1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup quick-cooking oats
1 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp salt
1 cup nonfat buttermilk (I used whole milk with 1 Tbsp lemon juice)
2 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1 egg
roasted apples (recipe below) for topping

In a bowl, combine the first 7 ingredients. In another bowl, combine the remaining ingredients.  Combine the wet and dry ingredients with a spatula until just combined.  On a griddle over medium heat, pour 2 Tbsp of batter for each pancake.  Flip when the tops are covered in small bubbles and cook on the other side for a minute or two until golden brown.

Roasted Cinnamon Apples
adapted slightly from Joy the Baker
(After you finish topping your pancakes, you will most likely have leftovers for your ice cream later in the day...unless you double the pancake recipe)

4 Fuji or Gala apples, peeled, cored, and sliced thin
1 Tbsp of freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 Tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp cornstarch
a pinch of salt
2 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into cubes

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Place your apple slices on a parchment lined baking sheet.  Sprinkle with lemon juice, brown sugar, cinnamon, cornstarch, and salt, and mix together with your fingers.  Then scatter the cubes of butter on top.  Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes until they are at your desired doneness.  Serve atop your pancakes or a bowl of ice cream.  These can be stored in the fridge for three days and you can warm them over low heat on the stove top.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Quick and Easy Shrimp Pasta Bowl

It's fun to throw a variety of simple ingredients together and end up with a delicious meal.  This one will make your house smell amazing too.  If you do the 20 minutes (if that) of prep work on the weekend like I did, then it literally takes only 20 minutes to get it on the table on a weeknight.  These meals always last us for two nights and then I get the rest for lunch at work on the third day.  It doesn't get any more perfect.  Also, Adrienne LOVES shrimp.  It's normal for her to ignore the veggies, but she even ignores the pasta.  I need to cut her off so there will be some for us.

Not only is this an easy meal to prepare, but it's also a good vehicle to use up any ingredients you have on hand.  I make some form of this type of pasta dish every other week because it is so easy and versatile.  Broccoli and tomatoes can easily be swapped out for asparagus, spinach, sundried tomatoes, peas...You name it, and I'm sure it will incorporate as well as what I've done here.  This is a great way to use up things in your fridge before they spoil.  You could even swap out leftover rotisserie chicken for the shrimp!  Use what ya got!

Quick and Easy Shrimp Pasta Bowl

6 garlic cloves, miced
1 shallot, minced
1 head of broccoli, cut into florets
1 pint of cherry or grape tomatoes
1 lb raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
6 cups low sodium chicken broth
1 box of your favorite pasta
olive oil
salt and pepper
1/4 cup romano cheese (optional)

Pour the chicken broth in a large pot.  When it comes to a boil, throw in your pasta and cook according to the package directions.  Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 425 degrees.  Place your tomatoes with some olive oil, salt, and pepper on a foil-lined baking sheet and bake for about 20 minutes until beginning to blister.  While the tomatoes are roasting, place the broccoli in a microwave safe bowl with 2 tablespoons of water.  Cover tightly and microwave for 3-4 minutes (depending on the size of your florets and how firm you like your broccoli.)  When it's done, remove the cover right away so it doesn't keep steaming and get too soft.  Heat olive oil over a large saute pan or wok. (I just got a new ceramic wok for my birthday and i love it!  It requires barely any oil.  I only need to use some for flavor.)  Sautee the shallots and garlic until the onion is soft and translucent.  Then add the shrimp to the pan.  Cook until just pink and cooked through.  Then add your broccoli, tomatoes, and about a 1/2 cup of the chicken broth.  Cook until all the flavors incorporate.  When the pasta is ready, drain off some of the excess broth, leaving some in the pot.  Add all the other ingredients to the pasta and mix it all together along with the cheese if you are using.  Try not to eat it all in one night!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Coconut Oil Popcorn

So...I've been a bad food blogger lately.  I've just been so busy busy busy.  Adrienne has turned three and stopped napping.  This pretty much means I don't have the two hours in the afternoon that I used to use to prepare delicious handysnacks and homemades.  Although I'm sad I haven't done as much experimenting as usual and have been relying on good old standbys instead, I am also very happy I have gotten to spend so much wonderful time with my wonderful daughter.  So I bring you something I haven't put on the blog yet - something quite possibly everyone will love, and is most definitely healthy and easy.

This is actually the easiest snack you will ever make.  It literally took 3 minutes, 2 ingredients (+ optional seasonings), and 0 prep.  It also uses super healthy coconut oil.  Some amazing benefits of virgin coconut oil that I've read about - it lowers bad cholesterol, raises good cholesterol, increases your body's efficiency at burning fat and fighting off infection and viruses, decreases abdominal fat and can even help thyroid function. Although I would also say that too much of it could be a bad thing.

You can make this with any oil, but try this for all the added health benefits and the extra bit of flavor boost - it has just the subtlest hint of coconut.  You could add additional seasonings (which I highly recommend) to give it additional flavor, but it tastes good plain too.  You can forget about butter on your popcorn.  You won't miss it in the least.

Coconut Oil Popcorn

2 Tbsp coconut oil
6 Tbsp popcorn kernels
1/4 tsp sea salt (optional) or more to taste
1/8 tsp cinnamon (optional)
1/8 tsp cayenne (optional)

Put the coconut oil in a large pot over medium-high heat.  Once it is melted, put a couple of kernels in and cover.  Once you hear a kernel pop, uncover and add the remaining kernels.  Cover immediately and cook for 1 minute, shaking the pot the entire time.  (Turn up the heat if necessary to get the kernels popping.)  Then remove from the heat and leave covered to be sure the popcorn is done popping.  Uncover, sprinkle with any seasonings you want to use and stir.  Pour into a nice big bowl and enjoy!